The Paternity Test by Michael Lowenthal
Contemporary*hardcover, 288 pages
Published September 27th 2012 by University of Wisconsin Press
Having a baby to save a marriage—it’s the oldest of clichés. But what if the marriage at risk is a gay one, and having a baby involves a surrogate mother?
Pat Faunce is a faltering romantic, a former poetry major who now writes textbooks. A decade into his relationship with Stu, an airline pilot from a fraught Jewish family, he fears he’s losing Stu to other men—and losing himself in their “no rules” arrangement. Yearning for a baby and a deeper commitment, he pressures Stu to move from Manhattan to Cape Cod, to the cottage where Pat spent boyhood summers.
As they struggle to adjust to their new life, they enlist a surrogate: Debora, a charismatic Brazilian immigrant, married to Danny, an American carpenter. Gradually, Pat and Debora bond, drawn together by the logistics of getting pregnant and away from their spouses. Pat gets caught between loyalties—to Stu and his family, to Debora, to his own potent desires—and wonders: is he fit to be a father?
In one of the first novels to explore the experience of gay men seeking a child through surrogacy, Michael Lowenthal writes passionately about marriages and mistakes, loyalty and betrayal, and about how our drive to create families can complicate the ones we already have. The Paternity Test is a provocative look at the new “family values.”
My thoughts: The steps some people take to save a floundering relationship is examined, as are other issues, in The Paternity Test by Michael Lowenthal. Pat and Stu are a gay couple dealing with problems. Stu still picks up other men and Pat thinks a change of scenery will help them strengthen their crumbling foundation. Will a move from the Big Apple to Cape Cod help? Will the addition of a child help too?
The Paternity Test is a complex look at the complexity of relationships, human nature and parenting. Once Stu sets the plan to find a surrogate for their child, he grapples with impending fatherhood. If he can't keep his man from straying, what makes him think he'll be more successful as a father? To add a twist, his relationship with the surrogate mother, Debora, develops into something unexpected, further complicating his life with Stu. There were times I didn't like many of the characters for differing reasons and there lies the beauty of this novel. Through the swift currents of change these characters endure, we see how realistically they are crafted. And I certainly did not see the twist coming at the end. The Paternity Test is a testament to the many faces, textures and trials of families, love, and life.
Book source: I received a paperback from Book Sparks PR in return for my honest review.